Venezuelan Government Donates $500K To Trump

Records from President Donald Trump's inaugural committee show that, on Dec. 22, 2016, Venezuela's state-owned oil company donated $500,000 to the American president's inauguration fund.

According to the BBC, the Venezuelan government donated the money through Citgo Petroleum, a U.S.-based company owned by the Venezuelan state-owned oil company.

The half-million-dollar donation comes amid dire political, social and economic problems for the country of Venezuela as a whole.

Jose Manuel Puente, a professor of public policy at the IESA university in Caracas, explained the collective hardship facing the country.

"We have been experiencing four consecutive years of recession, we have the highest inflation in the world and are facing scarcity in many basic goods," said Puente, according to the BBC. "It is scandalous that Venezuela, facing such a crisis, would make those donations to the inauguration of a U.S. president, who at least in theory, is ideologically confronted with the revolution."

In 2016, food imports to Venezuela were slashed in half, according to NBC. The year saw impoverished Venezuelan citizens losing an average of 21 pounds from starvation.

"It is an amazing amount of money that could have fed a lot of your population for the month," said Russ Dallen, managing partner of the Caracas Capital investment firm, in reference to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's donation.

Eric Farnsworth, vice president at the Council of the Americas, agreed: "It's very clear he's putting money behind his priorities, but those don't necessarily include the population of the country, in terms of food, medicine, safety."

Political tensions in Venezuela have erupted in violent demonstrations, which have reportedly deteriorated into several confrontations between protesters and security personnel.

People numbering in the thousands have taken to the streets to demand new elections and protest Maduro's leadership, chanting "No more dictatorship," according to Reuters. Three people died in unrest on April 19.

On April 18, the U.S. State Department responded to the ongoing protests by releasing a statement decrying the events.

"Those responsible for the criminal repression of peaceful democratic activity ... will be held individually accountable for their actions by the Venezuelan people and their institutions, as well as the international community," read the statement, according to Sky News.

The cumulative amount of money shelled out by Citgo was reportedly more than the Trump inauguration donations of Pepsi, Walmart and Verizon combined. Maduro's donation matched those of companies JP Morgan Chase and Exxon, but was still overshadowed by the $1 million donated by Bank of America.

In spite of Maduro's donation, Trump had a meeting in February with the wife of the imprisoned Leopoldo Lopez, one of  Maduro's political rivals, and Trump has strongly advocated for Lopez's immediate release, according to The Hill.